Tag Archives: adrenaline

Carl Froch becomes the God of War for Mikkel Kessler rematch

Froch reinvents himself in preparation for Kessler – world champion bids for immortality as boxing's God of War

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

17:08 GMT, 11 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:49 GMT, 11 March 2013

There are those who understandably already believe Mikkel Kessler is in for the fight of his life when he meets Carl Froch in a rematch at The O2 Arena on May 25.

That as a tough, established and fearless world champion, Froch already represented the hardest opponent he could have dreamed of and that he was already in some ways taking the form of Kessler's worst nightmare.

Not so. Froch, it seems, has reinvented himself, and no longer is he the toughest of people – he is now an immortal warrior.

Intimidating: Carl Froch, dressed as God of War, already represents a considerable challenge to Mikkel Kessler

Intimidating: Carl Froch, dressed as God of War, already represents a considerable challenge to Mikkel Kessler

The super middleweight has been transformed into Kratos, the leading character from PlayStation game God of War, a transformation Kessler best hope is only temporary.

'They described our first fight as “brutal” and if I was to forecast one word that will probably describe our rematch, then it will likely be “savage”, said Froch when the rematch for their April 2010 fight – which Kessler narrowly edged on points – was announced at the start of February.

Kessler at the time appeared unconcerned, promising 'two warriors going at it from the first bell until the very end, it will be pure action and adrenaline', but this latest appearance from Froch may yet make him feel otherwise.

Weapons at the ready: But Froch will prepare to use little more than his fists in May

Weapons at the ready: But Froch will prepare to use little more than his fists in May

God of War Surely even the 'Viking Warrior' will be no match for Froch

God of War Surely even the 'Viking Warrior' will be no match for Froch

Froch, meanwhile, has insisted he will cement his
reputation as a throwback fighter by claiming revenge Kessler when they clash.

The Nottingham fighter believes the era of unbeaten
champions who reign with padded records must be rendered a thing of the
past if boxing is to re-assert its importance in today's sporting
climate.

He said: 'A lot of people over the
years have built up protected records and taken 35 fights before
fighting good opponents, but that way of promoting fighters is finished.

Carl Froch

Carl Froch

Soft side A smiling Froch greets his two-year-old son, Rocco, with a kiss

'I have fought top opponents fight after
fight. I have not won them all but my name is massive and everyone
respects what I do. People see me as the one who is putting boxing back
on the map.

'You can't con the public by fighting
bums any more. You've got to be involved in 50-50 fights that you could
win or lose. These are fights I want because they give me respect and
honour.'

Froch was speaking at an event to promote the God Of
War: Ascension video game.

Eye of the tiger: Froch is almost unrecognisable once the make up has been applied

Eye of the tiger: Froch is almost unrecognisable once the make up has been applied

Kratos from God of War

Carl Froch

Kratos: The God of War character (left) that Froch's look is based upon

He also did not rule out a third
meeting between the pair.

Froch added: 'I think my defence has improved since I first fought him and I don't stand and trade so much.

'People know they will be witnessing a
brutal act between two genuine warriors who refuse to lie down. I'm sure
once I beat him there will be a good chance of doing it a third time
because it is what people want to see.'

Dean Winstanley hits nine dart finish against Vincent van der Voort at World darts championship

Winstanley nets 15k bonus after hitting nine darter… but it is not enough to stop Van der Voort knocking him out

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UPDATED:

19:01 GMT, 23 December 2012

In a madcap half-hour at Ally Pally, Dean Winstanley experienced the ecstasy of throwing only the fourth perfect nine-dart leg in the history of the Ladbrokes.com PDC World Championship and then the agony of defeat.

A 15,000 bonus cheque and a more sumptuous Christmas dinner will be the material comforts to absorb a 4-2 second-round defeat by Vincent van der Voort, but the Yorkshireman will be able to dine out on his achievement for years to come.

Winstanley said: ‘No doubt about it, I’d rather have won the match than got the nine-darter but I’ve hit a nine-darter on TV and I still want to go out and scream as much as I want to go out and cry. I’m going to go back for Christmas and have the biggest, fattest turkey ever with gravy dribbling down my chin, the lot. I’m happy. Really happy.’

Cloud nine: Dean Winstanley shakes hands with Vincent van der Voort after scoring a 9 darter

Cloud nine: Dean Winstanley shakes hands with Vincent van der Voort after scoring a 9 darter

What made Winstanley’s perfect moment all the more remarkable in his first season on the PDC Tour was the fact he stood two sets down and had won just a single leg in the match at the time.

Sprinting manically across the giant stage to celebrate with his wife Lorraine, he initially used the adrenaline rush to draw level with Van der Voort before losing concentration as the game moved into its final stages. It turned out that his Dutch opponent had good reason not to panic among the pandemonium.

Van der Voort revealed: ‘The moment Dean hit it I thought: “I’ve had two nine-darters against me before in my life and I won both matches”. So that helped me a little bit.’ Van der Voort plays James Wade, a 4-2 winner over Steve Beaton, in the third round on Thursday.

Perfect darts: Winstanley on his way to his nine dart finish

Perfect darts: Winstanley on his way to his nine dart finish

It was sportsmanship of the highest order rather than technical brilliance which threatened to work against Mark Walsh in his encounter with Justin Pipe.

Leading 3-1 and requiring one more set for victory, Walsh saw his opponent snap a stem off his dart during a throw.

Not enough: Despite the nine dart finish Vincent van der Voort beat Winstanley

Not enough: Despite the nine dart finish Vincent van der Voort beat Winstanley

Unable to fix the problem initially, Pipe had left his spare darts at home and was forced to ask if he could borrow one of Walsh’s reserve set while former world No 1 Rod Harrington repaired his projectile.

Walsh agreed willingly, then watched as Pipe mounted a comeback and almost took the game into a deciding set before clinching a 4-2 victory.

Walsh said: ‘I didn’t want to claim the game by default. I’d rather beat him on merit than he couldn’t throw his darts any more or be timed out.

Held up: Referee Russ Bray tries to fix one of Justin Pipe's broken darts in his match against Mark Walsh

Held up: Referee Russ Bray tries to fix one of Justin Pipe's broken darts in his match against Mark Walsh

'I wouldn’t like anything like that. Not just to Justin, to any player. I haven’t got a nasty bone in my body.

‘Sid Waddell used to call me a hooligan because of my image, but I’m not. I’m a really nice guy. You ask any player. I’m probably the nicest person in darts.

‘It doesn’t matter who I play, I want to beat them on my own merits. I don’t want to beat them by default.’

Raymond Van Barneveld is through after one of the great performances

Breath-taking: Barney puts on one of the great performances

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UPDATED:

00:47 GMT, 17 December 2012

Raymond Van Barneveld made a breath-taking start to his quest for a sixth world championship as he despatched Michael Smith 3-0 on Sunday night at Ally Pally.

The Dutchman returned to form when he won the 2012 Grand Slam of Darts and he produced a scintillating performance as he averaged 108.31, the sixth highest in tournament history, and hit eight 180s on his way to booking a place in the last 32.

Scintillating: Raymond Van Barneveld averaged a score of 108.31, the sixth highest in tournament history, as he beat Michael Smith

Scintillating: Raymond Van Barneveld averaged a score of 108.31, the sixth highest in tournament history, as he beat Michael Smith in the first round

It was a clinical start from Barney, who lost in the first round last year, as he took the first set 3-1 with an average of 103.85 and 75% checkout success. The Dutchman hit an 11-dart leg and a 13-dart leg along with three 180s in a dominant opening set.

But Van Barneveld took it to another level in the second set with a stunning average of 125.3 to push his match average beyond 116. After a 121 checkout in the first leg, Barney secured the break in the second before coming close to a nine-dart finish in the next leg as he won the set 3-0.

And there was no stopping the five-time world champion as he won the third set 3-0 as well, sealing victory with a 111 checkout as he hit nine out of 12 doubles.

Clinical: The Dutchman didn't give his opponent a sniff in a brilliant 3-0 victory

Clinical: The Dutchman didn't give his opponent a sniff in a brilliant 3-0 victory

After his impressive performance, Barney told Sky Sports: ‘Last year I was in shock when lost to James Richardson. I was thinking “this isn’t right I have to play more games”. I was so devastated last year and I said I was going to work hard and play every single tournament.

‘I came here and I was so happy I could feel the adrenaline in my whole body. I was thinking “I’m back”.

‘I won the Grand Slam of Darts and when I lifted the trophy one month ago I was thinking “if I can win this trophy I can win them all”. I want to play good games and if I feel well I can play at this level every single round.’

Outclassed: Englishman Michael Smith (pictured) was no match for an imperious Barney

Outclassed: Englishman Michael Smith (pictured) was no match for an imperious Barney

Van Barneveld suffered a shock first-round loss 12 months ago at Alexandra Palace but his conqueror on that occasion Richardson couldn’t repeat his giant-killing exploits this year as he lost 3-1 to Andy Hamilton.

Richardson got off to the perfect start, though, as he hit a 65 checkout in the opening leg to break Hamilton’s throw. The early struggles continued for The Hammer as he missed all seven shots at doubles in the opening two legs to trail 2-0.

And despite a 100 checkout on his own throw by Hamilton to pull back to 2-1, Richardson sealed the opening set with double top to get off to a flying start.

But The Hammer responded in style as he broke Richardson’s throw with a 54 checkout in the first leg of the second set before going on to take the next two legs to draw level at one set apiece.

And Hamilton followed up by hitting double two to win a nervy, pivotal deciding leg in set three to move 2-1 ahead.

The fourth set was just as tight but The Hammer looked to have taken a decisive step towards victory when, with the score at 1-1, he hit two 180s in leg three on his way to breaking the Richardson throw.

But Richardson didn’t give up, though, as he checked out 100 to level the set at 2-2 before Hamilton eventually hit the double 16 he needed to win the deciding leg and seal a hard-fought victory.

Andy Hamilton (left) embraces James Richardson after beating him in a closely fought contest

Andy Hamilton (left) embraces James Richardson after beating him in a closely fought contest

In the last match of the evening, 2011 Premier League champion Gary Anderson beat impressive Finnish qualifier Jani Haavisto 3-1 in an entertaining contest.

The Flying Scot, who squeezed through his first-round match against Jyhan Artut last year, played well and averaged 98.82 but he was pushed all the way by the Finn, who averaged 90.39.

In Sunday’s other match, Brendan Dolan eased to a 3-0 win over Mark Jones to set up a second-round clash with Van Barneveld on Saturday afternoon.

Victory: Gary Anderson celebrates his win over the Fin, Jani Haavisto

Victory: Gary Anderson celebrates his win over the Fin, Jani Haavisto

Day four will see James Wade start his quest for a maiden World Championship after he squandered a big lead against Adrian Lewis in the semi-final last year.

Former BDO world champion Mark Webster is also on the bill on Monday night at Alexandra Palace.

Christmas gift ideas for sports fans

Still not started your Christmas shopping Let us help with our selection of perfect gift ideas for the sports fans in your life

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UPDATED:

14:51 GMT, 14 December 2012

We're half way through December, what do you mean you haven't started your Christmas shopping

It would be pretty shoddy if there weren't millions of us in the same situation. But don't worry, help is at hand.

Sportsmail has picked out a selection of gift ideas for the sports fan in your life and there's just enough time to visit the High Street or get your order in before the big day.

FOR THE DAREDEVIL

iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera

There are few things better than the adrenaline rush of tearing down the ski slopes – but this is no place for expensive camera equipment if you want to record the memories.

However, the new iON Air Pro Wi-Fi camera is lightweight and compact enough to capture every hair-raising moment.

Capturing the action: The compact and lightweight iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera is designed for use on the ski slopes

Capturing the action: The compact and lightweight iON Air Pro Wi-Fi Camera is designed for use on the ski slopes

Weighing just 130g, its wide angle lens can record video in High Definition 1080p resolution and take high quality 5 mega pixel stills.

The manufacturers say it can be attached to a ski helmet, while other daredevils can use it on their bike handlebars or a snowboard.

High adrenaline: The camera can be attached to a ski helmet, snowboard or the handlebar of a mountain bike

High adrenaline: The camera can be attached to a ski helmet, snowboard or the handlebar of a mountain bike

And it also comes into its own in this socially connected world by allowing instant upload of pics and video to Facebook and Twitter through the iON CLOUD, which offers 8GB of free storage.

299 – Available from Selfridges (London and Manchester), Comet, Amazon.co.uk, Tesco.com and iontheaction.co.uk. The free smart phone App for wireless uploading of footage to social media sites can be downloaded from iTunes

FOR THE ARMCHAIR SPORTS FAN

LG 55-inch OLED TV

True armchair sports fans shouldn't settle for second best when it comes to watching the big match action – it needs to be live, loud and in high definition pixel-popping glory. With an increasing number of matches now in 3D, it must be able to handle that too.

And LG claim their 55-inch OLED TV is the best on the market right now, offering an immersive experience for watching sport.

Slimline: The LG 55-inch OLED is a market-leader in offering an immersive 3D sports watching experience

Slimline: The LG 55-inch OLED is a market-leader in offering an immersive 3D sports watching experience – and it's just 44m thick

Remarkably, it's just 4mm thick and weighs 10kg. But inside this lightweight frame is the latest 3D cinema technology and full compatibility for all the latest Smart TV offerings such as on demand services like BBC iPlayer and LOVEFiLM via wireless internet.

It comes with seven pairs of 3D glasses so everyone can come round to watch the big sporting occasions.

Currently 2,299 at Currys

FOR THE MAN WHO LIKES TO LOOK HIS BEST

it’s always important to look your best and that means keeping on top of that facial hair before it becomes wild and unsightly. Luckily, there are a couple of new products that are just the job.

Braun Series 5

Nobody wants to spend any longer than necessary shaving in the morning and so the new Braun shaver is perfect for men in a hurry. Its flexible head goes easier on the skin, causing less irritation, while the powerful motor masters even tricky flat-lying hairs.

The mid-range 5040s can also be used in the shower with foams and gels. The products come with a Clean&Charge Station which both lubricates and charges the shaver at the touch of a button.

RRP 159.99-199.99 – Boots are running a third-off these prices in a promotion on the Braun range until December 31st

Braun Series 5 shaver

Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler

Close shave: The Braun Series 5 shaver (left) and the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler are the must have grooming accessories this Christmas

Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler

Particularly useful if you’re going for a certain look, Gillette’s first three-in-one grooming tool allows accurate trimming and precision edging. It combines Braun engineering and a selection of razor heads depending on your preference, all with lubricated strips to reduce irritation.

20 – All leading electrical retailers

FOR THE GAMERS

FIFA 13 Bonus Edition

It's a testament to the enduring popularity of the FIFA series that 4.5m copies of the latest edition flew off the shelves in the first five days after launch.

A must-have for the gamer in the family, FIFA 13 comes with the usual raft of innovations, which have revolutionised dribbling, ball control and physical battles.

The result is a simulation more realistic than ever, capturing all the drama and unpredictability of the real game.

The all-new Bonus Edition comes with 2200 FIFA points, enough to buy up to 22 gold packs in FIFA Ultimate Team.

47.99 from Game

fifa 13

EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13

Top games: The EA Sports titles, FIFA 13 (left) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 are a must for every sports fan

Tiger
Woods PGA Tour 13

Another must-have game title which continues to get better year-after-year, the 2013 instalment of EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour allows players to take full control over their swing.

All-new tempo, swing plane and shot power controls, as well as an adjustable shot setup, allow infinite shot types with just one club.

Golf fans will be immersed in faithful reproductions of some of the world's best courses and can play as any one of 22 PGA Tour golfers, including Tiger and Rory McIlroy.

From 15.99 at Game

Madden NFL 13

Madden NFL 13

Completing out hat-trick of must-own games in Madden 13, which
once again pushes the boundaries of what NFL fans expect from their gaming
experience.

The passing system has been completely stripped down and
redesigned, while the all-new read and react defensive system offers
intelligent and realistic defense.

EA's 'Physics You Can Feel' Infinity engine accurately portrays
player collisions to ensure no two plays ever look the same.

And to top it all, Madden NFL 13 Ultimate Team provides a
free-to-play game mode that perfectly combines Madden NFL Football, fantasy
football, and player trading cards.

37.99 at Game

FOR THE GOLFER

Dunlop NZ9 Driver

The Dunlop NZ9 Driver has a 460cc full titanium constructed head, a white anti-glare finish which helps alignment for straighter, more accurate shots and a 'Gecko-Tac' grip for a superb amount of grip no matter what the weather conditions.

It also features Aeroskin technology which reduces drag and increases distance.

From 54.99 – Sports Direct and sportsdirect.com

Dunlop NZ9 Driver

Dunlop Tour Elite 1 putter

Better game: Dunlop's NZ9 Driver (left) and Tour Elite 1 Putter (right) will be gratefully received by any golfer

Dunlop Tour Elite 1
Putter

The stainless steel
Dunlop Tour Elite Putter also features a white anti-glare finish to ensure you
are not distracted whilst taking your putt.

It also features a
polymer face insert for a soft, controlled strike, alignment markings and a
'Gecko-Tac' grip for a soft and comfortable feel.

From 19.99 – Sports
Direct and sportsdirect.com

Dunlop Tour Elite Cart Bag

With a 14-way divider and eight zipped pockets, this bag
is the ideal way for keeping your clubs and accessories organised.

Other features include umbrella storage, touch and close
glove holder, padded shoulder strap and grab handles for ease of
transportation.

From 32 – Sports Direct and sportsdirect.com

Celtic
Manor gift vouchers

The world class resort and golf course are offering a new set of gift vouchers for 2013, ranging from 18 holes on the championship course which hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup to a romantic weekend break. They include:

– Winter Golf Experience (39) – Enjoy a warming breakfast of tea, coffee and a bacon roll before heading out to play 18 holes. Top it all off with a hearty two course meal in the Lodge Brasserie.

– PGA Professional Video Golf Tuition (45) – Perfect for everyone, from absolute beginners to those hoping to improve their game, with the help of the latest technology and expert tuition from PGA professionals.

– Overnight stay for two at The Newbridge on Usk (100) – Enjoy a night of luxury at this intimate country inn nestled in the heart of the picturesque village of Tredunnock. Oh, and a few rounds of golf.

More details here.

Beautiful: Golfers of all abilities can enjoy a round at Celtic Manor for an affordable price next year

Beautiful: Golfers of all abilities can enjoy a round at Celtic Manor for an affordable price, while your other half can relax in the resort's pool and spa (below)

Celtic Manor pool and spa

Slazenger AERO V98 Tour Racket

FOR TENNIS PLAYERS

Slazenger AERO V98 Tour Racket (for men)

Pictured right

This racket is perfect for those who enjoy a casual Sunday morning knockabout to the more serious climbing a club ladder.

Its aerodynamic head enables a faster swing speed and greater manoeuvrability, while the unique 'Squoval' frame allows you to generate phenomenal amounts of spin.

Current ATP Tour players Jamie Murray and Ross Hutchins both use the AERO V98 Tour racket whilst British Legend and Slazenger ambassador, Tim Henman, joins the doubles experts in endorsing the new Slazenger AERO racket range.

From 109.99 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger AERO V100 Team (for men and women)

This light weight racket is designed for intermediate to advanced players with medium swing speeds. This racket offers bags of power and access to spin through an ultra-aerodynamic headshape which allows it to slice through the air with the minimum of effort. The Penta X-Section in the throat of the racket adds extra control and stability.

Available at store.slazenger.com

FOR CRICKETERS

Slazenger V200 Elite Cricket Bat

Endorsed by pros Jacques Kallis and Tim Bresnan, the V200 Elite offers the perfect balance between power and control.

Its 'lowered middle' is brilliant for batsmen who like to play attacking strokes.

From 150.00 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger Elite Batting Pads

Slazenger say this is the ultimate pad to help protect you at the crease – its lightweight and agile, and yet doesn't compromise on protection.

It also comes with quick release pads in case you're promoted up the order or there's an unfortunate batting collapse.

From 52.99 – available at store.slazenger.com

Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall

Again recommended by the professionals, this wheeled and reinforced cricket bag allows you to carry all your equipment in comfort and style.

The Ultimate V180 comes with three main compartments for playing equipment, after-match clothing and another with room for three bats in a padded storage section.

From 60.00 – available at store.slazenger.com

Plenty of room: The Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall comes with three compartments - for bats, whites and other equipment

Plenty of room: The Slazenger Ultimate V180 Holdall comes with three compartments – for bats, whites and other equipment

FOR FOOTBALLERS

Adidas Predator LZ TRX Boots

As worn by dozens of Premier League footballers, including Steven Gerrard and Robin Van Persie, the Predator boot remains up there among the best on the market.

The latest offering is the LZ TRX, which comes with a super-soft upper bringing together the benefits of leather and synthetic materials.

Its technology has five 'lethal zones' to ensure the ball never slips away from your touch.

Top of the range RRP is 160 but cheaper versions are available – SportsDirect.com

Adidas Predators

Adidas Predators

Market leader: The latest Adidas Predator is worn by Steven Gerrard and Robin Van Persie, among others

Bit of a Blur: Under Armour's new boots

Under Armour Blur II Boots

They're a relative newcomer to the boots market but Under Armour have been bold in their first designs.

The Blur (pictured, right), an explosion of black, yellow and blue, is a prime example and they claim the moulded 4D foam technology provides the snuggest fit ever.

80 from Under Armour

Sondico Legend Pro Roll Spiral Goalkeeping Gloves

Sondico has used all its nous from years of supplying the likes of Peter Shilton and Neville Southall with top quality gloves to design the Legend Pro Roll Spiral.

It features an elasticated wrist cuff for comfortable fit, and 'Superior Regenerating Grip' technology for a firm grip in all weather conditions.

From 35.00 – available at sportsdirect.com

Adidas Sequencials Adiviz Half-zip Long sleeve sweatshirt

FOR LOVERS OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS/THOSE ON NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

Adidas Sequencials Adiviz Half-zip Long sleeve sweatshirt

Perfect for runners of all levels, this sweatshirt features the Adidas patented FORMOTION design to allow freedom of movement and CLIMALITE fabric for wicking sweat out of your way.

Until the nights pull out, it's high-visibility reflective details and glow-in-the-dark piping allow you to be seen and safe.

40 – www.adidas.com/running

Adidas TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex mountaineering boot

Despite being supremely comfortable and lightweight, the TERREX boot still provides the necessary grip on both wet and dry surfaces thanks to its Continental rubber compound sole.

In the heel, the FORMOTION system comprises of two overlapping plates which can slide forward, back and to the side depending on ground conditions to reduce strain on the joints.

The MID version is ideal for fast day tours. There's a choice of colours and designs too.

140 – www.adidas.com/outdoor

Great outdoors: For single-day fast mountain runs, Adidas offer the TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex boot at 140

Great outdoors: For single-day fast mountain runs, Adidas offer the TERREX Fast R MID Gore-Tex boot at 140

FOR THE URBAN CYCLIST

Kansi

With congestion charges and rising rail fares, there's never been a better time to invest in a fold-up bike for the daily commute.

And the Kansi is one of the best options out there. The mechanism is so lithe it can be folded up in under 10 seconds and when on the road, it offers identical steering and handling to a normal road bike.

The Kansi can be customised with coloured stickers to make it something absolutely unique and personal.

Prices range from 525-875 – www.kansi.co.uk

The new commute: The Kansi bike can be folded up in under 10 seconds and still maintains the stability of a standard road bike

The new commute: The Kansi bike can be folded up in under 10 seconds and still maintains the stability of a standard road bike

Union34 luggage and clothing

Designed with the urban cyclist in mind, Union34's range of versatile bags can be used equally comfortably on or off the bike.

The UK-designed range offers three different types – a rucksack pannier, shoulder pannier and a traditional rucksack.

The latter is designed to fit onto a bike using a unique quick-release fixing bracket.

Available from Amazon

Luggage: Union34 have designed a selection of bags for the urban cyclist

Luggage: Union34 have designed a selection of bags for the urban cyclist

Manchester City v Manchester United preview: Can City roll back the year? – Ian Ladyman

Can City roll back the year Unbeaten but below par so far, champions must find the swagger that clinched them title

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UPDATED:

22:51 GMT, 7 December 2012

April 30 was the last time Manchester City beat a genuinely first-rate opponent in any competition. Sunday at the Etihad Stadium would be a good time to do it again.

Champions win big games, don’t they Not these champions. Not this year.

Since that seismic night in east Manchester towards the end of last season – when they beat Manchester United 1-0 to retake control in the Barclays Premier League title race – Roberto Mancini’s City team have come up a little short in the really important games.

Remember this City captain Vincent Kompany heads home the winner against United that set up the title win

Remember this City captain Vincent Kompany heads home the winner against United that set up the title win

Remember this City captain Vincent Kompany heads home the winner against United that set up the title win

Unbeaten in the league they remain – and that’s some feat in itself these days – but games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have passed this season without City making the sort of statement that turns heads.

‘We didn’t play any games in June, July and didn’t play much in August,’ was Mancini’s quick-witted reply when this was put to him during a noticeably relaxed press conference on Friday morning.

Deep down, though, Mancini will know that the contrasts between this season and last are stark.

A year ago, City had already won 5-1 at Tottenham, 6-1 at United and were about to win 1-0 at Arsenal. If you are to win domestic titles then, at some stage, markers need to be laid down and so far this season they have been absent.

This time, a win at West Brom and a home victory over Tottenham – both secured by late goals – is as good as it has got for Mancini.

Off the pace: City were beaten by Dortmund in midweek

Off the pace: City were beaten by Dortmund in midweek

As they prepare to meet their rivals for the first time this season, City could perhaps do with the adrenaline shot another local triumph would bring.

‘I don’t think we have the same quality this season that we showed in the first 15 games of last season,’ admitted Mancini.

‘This season we have had big problems with injuries and the year after you win a title is always more difficult.

‘We had a problem with the defence at the start of the season when we were conceding too many goals. Now we have improved that situation but we need to improve the output from our strikers. If we can start to score I think we can improve again.

‘United have also scored 10 more goals than us. Our season depends on our strikers. If we start to score like last year we will have a big chance.’

Key man: Sergio Aguero hasn't yet hit the heights of last season

Key man: Sergio Aguero hasn't yet hit the heights of last season

Almost halfway through their season as defending champions and City’s efforts – domestically at least – are certainly worthy of a ‘B’ grade. United, playing catch-up after the heartbreak of last season, perhaps deserve about the same.

One can’t escape the feeling, though, that it is City who head into Sunday’s game with something to prove, as much to themselves as everybody else. Only occasionally this season have Mancini’s team played with the authoritative strut of champions.

It has, it must be said, all been rather patchy, and patchy doesn’t win you titles.

‘We’ve beaten Tottenham this season,’ said Mancini. ‘We did well in drawing at Chelsea, when all we were missing was a goal, and against Arsenal we deserved to win. They scored in the last 10 minutes.

‘When you consider all the problems we have had since the start of the season, I think it is a good thing that we are only three points behind United.’

Highlight: City beat Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium last month

Highlight: City beat Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium last month

Certainly, it is hard to disagree with Mancini’s last point. Despite the fuss surrounding the club this season – some warranted and some not – City remain very much in the thick of things and the improvement that must surely come may yet sweep them past their neighbours and off towards the horizon.

Across town – or literally over the fence when it comes to the clubs’ training grounds – United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was understated on Friday.

It is often the way when he looks at the league table and sees that things are moving his way.

Nevertheless, despite being three points clear at the top of the Premier League after 15 games, Ferguson’s team cannot defend at the moment, and this is something that could trouble them if City do manage to find some kind of rhythm on Sunday.

Defensive woes: United conceded three at the Madejski Stadium last weekend

Defensive woes: United conceded three at the Madejski Stadium last weekend

As Sir Bobby Charlton points out in these pages, City do present United with a problem when it comes to the physical strength of their side. It is clear that players such as Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure will be important at both ends of the field.

Ferguson may yet be tempted to throw fit-again central defender Nemanja Vidic back into the fray after a knee injury as he looks to bring some beef to the heart of United’s back line.

He must also hope for improvement from his goalkeeper, though, whichever one he decides to pick.
Ahead of this game, United appear to have a slight edge and a better mindset. But that can change quickly.

A proper City performance may once again change the landscape.

Shaun Murphy beats Luca Brecel in UK Championship quarter-finals

Young Brecel's not so pretty on the pink as Murphy ends Belgian's fairytale run

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UPDATED:

01:08 GMT, 7 December 2012

Shaun Murphy dodged a Belgian bullet as Luca Brecel ran into pink peril and bowed out in the quarter-finals of the williamhill.com UK Championship.

Seventeen-year-old Brecel was twice on the brink of a famous victory at just his second major tournament.

But the rising star missed crucial pinks in the 10th and 11th frames to allow Murphy to capitalise both times.

Eye on the ball: Shaun Murphy had to dig deep to get the better of Luca Brecel

Eye on the ball: Shaun Murphy had to dig deep to get the better of Luca Brecel

The second steal clinched a 6-5 victory for the 2008 UK champion, setting up a semi-final tomorrow against Stuart Bingham's conqueror Ali Carter.

Murphy pointed to strong words at the interval from his manager Brandon Parker as a key factor in his victory.

'Brandon gave me a good talking-to at the interval that would have rivalled one of Sir Alex Ferguson's half-time talks, and it really knocked me into shape,' Murphy said.

'It's lucky there were no hairdryers in that dressing room. I think I'd have got one. Without Brandon's words I would have lost the match.'

He would have gone out anyway if Brecel had been able to put away his chances.

'I thought I'd lost the match a couple of times, I really did think I was out,' Murphy said. 'I think the adrenaline and maybe a little bit of inexperience cost him in the end. He over-hit and under-hit a couple of shots, and I'm just relieved.

Nerves of steel: 17-year-old Brecel has been the talk of the UK Championship

Nerves of steel: 17-year-old Brecel has been the talk of the UK Championship

'The sense of relief and sense of pleasure is probably twice as much as if I'd won 6-0 with four maximum breaks.'

Murphy can see a future champion emerging, and pointed to shades of Stephen Hendry in Brecel's temperament.

'He's just not bothered. And as long as he can keep that, that's what the best champions in the game forever have all had in common,' Murphy said.

'When everyone else is under pressure and feeling it, they just waltz through it like it's a walk in the park. Hendry never used to show any nerves at all and Luca looks like he's got the same attributes.

'He doesn't seem to show any nerves, he doesn't seem to feel any pressure just until the last minute, and it was lucky for me he did.'

Elsewhere at the Barbican, Mark Davis joined the semi-final line-up as the most successful season of his 21 years as a snooker professional reached a new high.

The 40-year-old Hastings man reached his third ranking event semi-final of the campaign with a 6-4 victory over the 2003 UK champion Matthew Stevens.

Into the last four: Davis

Into the last four: Davis

Davis had never made it so far in one of snooker's majors before this term, but he began his run of success at the Wuxi Classic in June, followed it up with another semi-final showing at the Australian Open in July and now has a final in his sights in York.

He fired breaks of 101, 80 and 70 in seeing off Welshman Stevens, earning himself a shot at Mark Selby, who fought back from 4-0 down to beat Neil Robertson 6-4.

The key frame was the 49-minute ninth, which after an intense battle Selby took, and when Robertson left him a cheap opening red early in the next frame the Leicester man made a match-winning 101 break.

Selby punched the air in celebration after potting the red that made victory safe, tying up victory at 12.05am.

Selby, 29, will go back to No 1 in the world should he beat Davis to reach the final, having relinquished top spot to Judd Trump in November.

Selby said: 'It's a special win. The way I finished off was pleasing but at the start of the match I was terrible, pathetic, and I deserved to be 4-0 down.

'Until 4-3 I didn't really start playing the way I'm capable of playing. I finished off well and it's surprising to come out on top.'

Mark Clattenburg career is over if he made racist remarks – Graham Poll

Clattenburg knows if he made racist remarks in heat of Stamford Bridge battle his career is already over

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UPDATED:

13:41 GMT, 29 October 2012

Mark Clattenburg will be feeling mixed emotions. He'll feel incredibly low and after such a high-adrenaline match full of incidents it is impossible not to come down… hard.

Especially when the game finished as unsatisfactorily from the officials' perspective as this one did. And faced with the very serious allegations he will also feel angry and worried.

Angry that he is subject to such allegations given all the abuse that he, along with so many other officials, allow themselves to be subjected to week in week out; and worried in case, in the heat of the moment he forgot himself and made inappropriate comments.

Worrying times: Clattenburg's career hangs in the balance after allegations made by Chelsea

Worrying times: Clattenburg's career hangs in the balance after allegations made by Chelsea

Not racist ones, he'll know if he made those and will know his career is over if he did; but comments including foul or inappropriate words that he cannot recall making. When the pressure is at its greatest things are said and done which do not bear scrutiny.

In November 2006 I was accused of making inappropriate remarks to three Chelsea players during their defeat at White Hart Lane.

Nothing as serious as the allegations that Clattenburg faces but serious enough to worry me as to what would happen to me. I was livid at even being asked if I had made the comments attributed to me by three players.

I was 99 per cent certain I had said nothing wrong and yet I was still worried until my colleagues confirmed that I had not said anything untoward. The point is the job means so much to a referee, if there is any possibility of it being taken away it brings out irrational thoughts. You know you are innocent but what if…

Centre of attention: All eyes are on Clattenburg as authorities attempt to piece together events at Stamford Bridge

Centre of attention: All eyes are on Clattenburg as authorities attempt to piece together events at Stamford Bridge

Centre of attention: All eyes are on Clattenburg as authorities attempt to piece together events at Stamford Bridge

I don't know if Clattenburg feels that
way, whether he knows he is completely innocent. He has said that he
will co-operate fully, of course he has to.

He will have got on the phone to Mick McDonagh and Simon Long, his two assistants and his select group referee colleague, Mike Jones, who was acting as fourth official.

All three will have been on the referee communication system and heard every word that Clattenburg said during play. He will have wanted to speak to them, not to 'get their stories straight' but to re-confirm that he said nothing inappropriate.

In such a high pressure environment Clattenburg may well have used an expletive or two. It's hard not to if you are in that atmosphere where foul language prevails.

Clattenburg will be contacted by the FA compliance department and asked for a written statement in response to the complaint made by Chelsea Football Club. So will the other three match officials.

Red alert: Clattenburg will have to make a full report on events in west London

Red alert: Clattenburg will have to make a full report on events in west London

Red alert: Clattenburg will have to make a full report on events in west London

Then the FA disciplinary department will look at the statements and any evidence that they have gathered from video footage and decide if Clattenburg has a case to answer.

If he does then he will probably be suspended until such a hearing, which should not take the months and months to prepare that other cases have done.

The question everyone is asking is, if all comments made by and to the referee were recorded this case could be settled very quickly.

Red alert: Clattenburg dismissed two Blues players

Red alert: Clattenburg dismissed two Blues players

Beth Tweddle goes wingwalking after Olympic end to gymnastics career

How do you beat an Olympic high Go even higher! Gymnast Tweddle goes wingwalking

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UPDATED:

13:41 GMT, 28 August 2012

Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle has swapped her high-flying bars routine for aerobatics wingwalking as she starts to enjoy the new-found freedom at the end of her gymnastics career.

The 27-year-old won her first Olympic medal at her third and final Games earlier this month in what could be her last major competition before her retirement.

Tweddle has not ruled out taking part in further events, but as her gymnastics career winds down, the Johannesburg-born athlete is ramping up the adrenaline in a variety of extreme sports.

Sky high: Olympic bronze-medal-winning gymnast Beth Tweddle went wingwalking on Tuesday

Sky high: Olympic bronze-medal-winning gymnast Beth Tweddle went wingwalking on Tuesday

Sky high: Olympic bronze-medal-winning gymnast Beth Tweddle went wingwalking on Tuesday

Wingwalking, or being strapped to the top wing of a vintage biplane, was Tuesday's high-octane activity for the three-time World Champion, but she revealed she has plenty more up her sleeve.

'It was amazing. I've literally just got down. It was so surreal,' Tweddle said after he first trip up into the air. 'One minute I was sat on the floor then the next minute I was in mid-air. It was awesome.

'I'm doing wingwalking, lots of different things that I've not been able to do due to the risk of injury and just not wanting to worry.

'Now I can have a go at those sort of things. I did a bit of abseiling the other day and did some ice skating and I've got a snowboarding lesson next week so I'm trying lots of different things. I'm hopefully going to do a sky dive early next year. I just want to have a go at everything.'

Loop the loop: Tweddle went wingwalking with the Breitling team at RFC Rendcomb Airfield near Cirencester

Loop the loop: Tweddle went wingwalking with the Breitling team at RFC Rendcomb Airfield near Cirencester

Winging it: Tweddle is instructed by Freya Paterson as she prepares to go airborne

Winging it: Tweddle gets instructions from Freya Paterson (right) as she prepares to go airborne

Tweddle is Britain's most successful female gymnast with an international career that has spanned 14 years.

In that time she was won three World,
six European and seven British titles, with the uneven bars bronze won
at London 2012 completing her collection.

Tweddle is now set to return to her home town of Bunbury, Cheshire, for a homecoming celebration this weekend after enjoying a new-found fame following her Olympic success.

'The reaction has been amazing,' she said. 'My home village are doing me a homecoming on Sunday. They have been like: “When's Beth coming home We want her to come home”, so we managed to arrange the date. They've got all the local parish councils to welcome me home.

'Everywhere I go I get recognised where before it was just the occasional person would pick up on who I was.

'Someone knitted me a doll of me and put a leotard on it and the bands I'd wear on my feet and put all of the detail on.

'I've had lots of nice presents from my friends. My boyfriend has bought me a candle which is a Union Jack and it's got bronze medallist it written on it, and he's got me some jewellery, a bronze medal to keep round my neck so I don't have to actually have to wear the actual bronze medal all of the time.

Plane to see: Tweddle is Britain's most successful female gymnast after a 14-year career

Plane to see: Tweddle is Britain's most successful female gymnast after a 14-year career

'He also bought me a little podium to
put on my charm bracelet so I've got an Olympic bracelet that he's done
for me. I've had lots of things.'

But despite taking time out to fulfil her ambitions away from the gym, Tweddle says it will take time before she is ready to stop training and call an end to her career.

'I went back in the gym on Monday doing a bit of training to keep my body in shape but as for long term plans I haven't really thought of that,' Tweddle said. 'I'm going to carry on training into next year so there's no rush for plans as technically my job is still to be a gymnast.

'I definitely want to stay involved in gymnastics whether it's mentoring or something else. I just want every child to have the opportunity to have a go at gymnastics.

'Right now, I want to make the most of every opportunity while I can.'

London 2012 Olympics: Tom Daley starts diving

Daley ready for the pool party as Brit takes centre stage with Waterfield

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 29 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Tom Daley has already done the maths, but on Monday afternoon he and partner Pete Waterfield will see if the numbers add up to an Olympic medal on home soil.

Daley, who achieved A grades in his maths ‘A’ level modules earlier this year, knows there is a ‘three in eight chance’ of standing on the podium with Waterfield after the men’s 10m platform synchronised finals, which start at 3pm.

The challenge for the pair is blocking out everything else and concentrating solely on their own performance. A repeat of the British record they achieved at the national diving championships in Sheffield in June would do nicely.

Quest for gold: Tom Daley (left) and that synchro partner Peter Waterfield take to the board on Monday

Quest for gold: Tom Daley (left) and that synchro partner Peter Waterfield take to the board on Monday

‘It is such an “on the day” sport,’ said Daley, ‘but statistically it is a three in eight chance of winning a medal in synchro. We have already qualified for the final so it is just about doing a good score.

‘The score we got at the nationals, 475.77, is a big score but you never know what is going to happen with the other divers. They might step up or they might not like the Olympic pressure.

‘I quite like pressure and it gives me that extra adrenaline and will to do it, but then the Chinese (Yuan Cao, 17, and Yanquan Zhang, 18) have been known not to do so well under pressure.

‘It is about going out there, not worrying what anyone else is doing and focusing on your performance.

‘If you hold your nerve and dive consistently then you are going to do well. If you start worrying about what anyone else is doing and you start looking at other people, watching them, seeing what they are doing, then that is when it can start going wrong.’

In sync lads Daley and Waterfield will compete in the men's synchro diving

In sync lads Daley and Waterfield will compete in the men's synchro diving

Daley’s coach, Andy Banks, is confident the 18-year-old ‘can compartmentalise his life’, even though his second Olympic Games comes only 14 months after the death of his father, Rob.

Four-time Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, the Californian who won two titles at his home Games in Los Angeles in 1984, also believes Daley will use the partisan crowd as an ‘inspiration’.

‘Stranger things have happened than Tom Daley winning the Olympic gold,’ Louganis, now 52 and an advisor to the US diving team, told Sportsmail.

‘Home advantage is all in the interpretation. When you go into the auditorium you feel something and if you interpret it as pressure you’re more apt to implode. But if you interpret that as energy it can inspire you to be more than you ever dreamed you could be.

Stiff competition: Daley and Waterfield must overcome China's Cao Yuan (top) and Zhang Yanquan

Stiff competition: Daley and Waterfield must overcome China's Cao Yuan (top) and Zhang Yanquan

‘When you’re at home you’re more likely to use it as inspiration — and I think Tom will do that. You’ve just got to let it go because you don’t want to have any regrets.’

Louganis, who as a 16-year-old won silver at his first Olympics at Montreal in 1976, praised not only Daley’s diving, but the Briton’s composure away from the pool.

‘I’ve met Tom and he’s a great kid,’ he said. ‘I’m very impressed with his diving, but I’m more impressed with him as a person; a young person making his way.

‘I think he’s in a better position than I was in Montreal. I think he’s more aware. I went there aged 16 and wasn’t expected to do well. He’s been on the world stage.

‘That was my introduction. It was totally foreign, but he’s been there. I think he’s got some pretty solid foundations under him.’

Over the last few weeks Daley has seemed particularly eager to emphasise this is not his first Olympic Games. He knows what to expect now and, in 31-year-old Waterfield, has an experienced partner.

Daley has another chance at glory in the individual 10m platform, which starts a week on Friday, but thinks a medal in the synchronised event would be ‘just as special’.

He added: ‘Going into the Olympics (in Beijing) it was the biggest thing I have done. It was my dream to go there and to come seventh in the individual event at 14 was a massive achievement for me.

‘But this year is the first where I have kind of been comfortable with all my dives in competition. The bar has definitely been raised by me. I have become more consistent.

‘I know I have been training as hard as I can, in synchro with Pete and individually.

‘I haven’t missed any training sessions and have been working really hard. Hopefully the results will pay off.’

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Diving

Bradley Wiggins wins first road stage on Tour de Romandie

Wiggins makes it two out of two for Team Sky on Tour of Romandie

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UPDATED:

19:03 GMT, 25 April 2012

Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins won the first road stage of the Tour de Romandie and claimed the race lead as Team Sky secured a second successive victory in Switzerland.

After Geraint Thomas won the opening prologue, Wiggins triumphed in a sprint finish at the end of the 184.5-kilometre route from Morges to La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Holland's Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) was second with Italy's Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) third, while Thomas lost time as Wiggins assumed the race leader's jersey.

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his win in La Chaux-de-Fonds

Sealed with a kiss: Bradley Wiggins celebrates his win in La Chaux-de-Fonds

Wiggins is among the favourites for July's Tour de France and is this week competing alongside Mark Cavendish in Team Sky colours for the first time in a race which features much of the British squad's likely Tour team.

Although British road race champion, Wiggins is more accustomed to winning against the clock than frantic bunch sprints for the finish line.

The 31-year-old said on teamsky.com: 'I had a lot of adrenaline after I punctured with 25k to go. When that happened the boys dropped back for me and did a fantastic job.

'Then in the final I was kind of on my own and marshalling everything and I just wanted to pay them back for everything they'd done, they were incredible.

Crossing the line: Team Sky's Wiggins (centre) raises his arms in triumph

Crossing the line: Team Sky's Wiggins (centre) raises his arms in triumph

'I've got them to thank and it was really nice to be able to finish it off like that.

'I went a bit early and had to sit down to rest for a bit and then went again but it was good to get the win.

'I want to win Romandie, that's for sure. I'll take what I can every day and it's really nice to win a sprint like this because normally I only ever really win time-trials.'

Michael Rogers moved into second place overall, seven seconds behind his Sky team-mate.